Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Into the field - Day 4

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth - been traveling up north (more about that later) and not had a chance to get online cq to the blog.

Backtracking to October 2nd to my last field day in the Khulna region. We visited the Bumija Foundation, Tala Satkhira in the southwest region.  The Foundation works with Dalit communities, one of the lowest Hindu caste who are economically marginalised and socially neglected. Before the visit the women, the Bumija Foundation Director Mr. Achintya Saha shows us a 5-minute video (which will be posted on YouTube as soon as bandwidth permits) and works towards raising awareness of the Dalit plight.

Bujima Foundation
The Dalit are not allowed in restaurants, schools and other public places. Some 30% of total population in this sub-district of 240,000 people is Dalit.  Dalit women mostly work as day labourers to make ends meet, but there, too, they are discriminated against as they will get hired in few and low level positions.

The men tend to resort to running their own service sector micro businesses such as cobbling and hairdressing ~ predominantly catering to their own ~ as that is how they manage to get some autonomy. The Foundation provides seed money (without interest!) for fish farming, poultry and duck rearing ~ training is subsidised by the government. 

The women are vocal, talking about the lack of clean drinking water and general lack of opportunity for them - they openly talk about the discrimination they face and how there is no future for their kids. Those kids that do go to school tend to drop out as the social abuse they experience is simply too much. A Dalit elder sits by seemingly resigned to her fate..
Dalit Elder
The injustice of it all....

On the way home we stop at a so-called 'Women's Employment Centre'. The Director has single-handedly trained some 500 women from surrounding villages in sowing and needlework. The women in the surrounding villages benefit in that they have some income ~ many trained ones still continuing to deliver piece work, with the occasional one starting up her own micro business.  This group makes beautiful tapestries but basically have no access to market. From time to time they sell  a bit to a Japanese outlet and in former days they used to sell a bit to Oxfam. Market knowledge is lacking and although the Director is online, email alone does not help her to create a market. Even if they did have a market, they would not have the capacity to produce volume. 

Women Employees

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